Gaborik bests Lundqvist to earn All-Star MVP honor

Now that forward Marian Gaborik and goalie Henrik Lundqvist have

playfully settled their NHL All-Star game rivalry, the two can go

back to combining their talents and creating headaches for the rest

of the league.

With much of the focus this weekend on all-star captains Daniel

Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara, the unsettled future of the Phoenix

Coyotes, and a still cloudy outlook regarding Sidney Crosby’s

health, Gaborik grabbed the limelight in capping the league’s

All-Star festivities in Ottawa.

The 11-year veteran earned MVP honors after scoring three times

and adding an assist in leading Team Chara to a 12-9 win over Team

Alfredsson on Sunday.

Gaborik proved he was the Rangers’ top star by beating Lundqvist

twice during the first period in delivering payback after the

goalie – and Team Alfredsson assistant captain – failed to push for

his selection in the All Star player draft on Thursday.

”I was trying to get into his mind over the whole weekend,”

Gaborik said, referring to a series of back-and-forth comments and

tweets the two had exchanged the past few days. ”And I think it

was a pretty good challenge against him, and worked a little better

for me.”

No worries, said Lundqvist, who prefers Gaborik as a

teammate.

”Obviously, he has a lot of leverage from all the games we’ve

had against each other,” Lundqvist said, recalling the time he

gave up five goals to Gaborik, when the forward was with the Wild.

”Hopefully, he stays in New York for a long time so I don’t have

to face him in a game.”

The one-two punch of Gaborik and Lundqvist has had the Rangers

on a roll for much of this season.

Gaborik’s team-leading 25 goals and 39 points, and Lundqvist’s

1.82 goals-against average – best among NHL goalies with at least

25 starts – has the Rangers (31-12-4) with 66 points, one behind

league-leading Detroit.

The final two-plus months of the season resumes with 13 games on

Tuesday. And if Sunday’s game is any measure, the league isn’t

bereft of stars in the absence of Crosby, who’s played only eight

games this season due to a concussion and neck injury, and Alex

Ovechkin, who didn’t attend after the NHL suspended him for three

games for an illegal hit.

Chara delivered by scoring the eventual winner in the midst of a

decisive three-goal outburst over a 1:22 span that put his team up

11-8 with 6:34 remaining.

The Vancouver Canucks’ Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, continued

to prove they’re among the game’s top play-makers with several

nifty passes.

And even in defeat, Alfredsson rewarded the hometown fans with

two goals and an assist to further cement his place as Ottawa’s

favorite athlete, before providing a hint that he might come back

for one more season.

With one year left on his contract, Alfredsson has sidestepped

questions over whether he might retire after this season.

In an interview broadcast on the arena’s scoreboard, the

39-year-old broke into a wide grin in giving his most definitive

answer yet by saying, ”Fifty percent yes, and my wife’s going to

have to decide the other 50,” as the crowd broke into a cheer.

Even Chara got into the spirit of the exhibition, saying he was

rooting for his former Senators teammate to complete his hat

trick.

”Alfie’s such a classy guy, obviously a big icon in Ottawa and

Sweden, as well, and such a great player to represent this team,”

Chara said. ”So of course I was pulling for him.”

There was plenty to root for after fans were treated to a

wide-open, no-hitting style in a game that featured plenty of nifty

passing, numerous odd-man breaks and even a penalty shot awarded to

Steven Stamkos, who leads the NHL with 32 goals.

Stamkos, however, was foiled on his freebie – the second in

All-Star game history – when he attempted the same spin-around move

he used to beat Carey Price in the skills competition on Saturday

night. Jimmy Howard didn’t bite on Sunday, holding his ground and

hugging the post to stop Stamkos’ penalty-shot attempt.

”I think I ran out of moves,” Stamkos said. ”I tried

something fancy and hoped it would work. It didn’t. But I just

tried to have fun with it.”

Tim Thomas made 18 saves in the final period, and extended his

record by winning his fourth All-Star game.

Marian Hossa and Jarome Iginla had a goal and two assists, and

Joffrey Lupul scored twice for Team Chara.

For Team Alfredsson, Henrik Sedin had a goal and two assists,

and Daniel Sedin, John Tavares, Jason Pominville and Milan Michalek

had a goal and assist each.